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Walmart: Always Lower Wages. Always

There’s just one good reason to shop at Wal-Mart: it sells things cheap. The bad reasons form a conga line snaking out the door and into the parking lot.

 Its employees have no union protection.
They have no job security.
They earn poverty-level wages.
They’re treated like field hands.

Workers who succeed in organizing individual stores–as was done last year in Quebec–find the shops boarded up.

The corporation’s dominance of the retail sector–a dominance that comes from its low wage, few-benefits policy–threatens better-paying employers and their workers. Most Wal-Mart’s 1.3 million workers get no health benefits, and those who do still need government help through Medicaid, which in effect acts as a taxpayer-provided subsidy to a private employer. An estimated $2.7 billion in welfare annually goes to working but poor and underpaid Wal-Mart workers.

UFT President Randi Weingarten told a City Hall rally Aug. 17 supporting a council bill requiring medium to large grocers to provide their workers with health care that "The more taxpayer money the city and the state spend on the health care of New Yorkers working for profitable, private companies, the less money there is for education and other important things." Bill sponsor Christine Quinn said the bill "will stop one more kind of corporate welfare and be a blow to the bottom feeders." 

Have I left anything out of the indictment. Evidently so. Writing on Salon.com and fully documenting each charge, Wal-Mart critic Liza Featherstone adds to the list of Wal-Mart sins: firing whistleblowers, discriminating against women and black truck drivers, violating child labor laws, locking workers into stores overnight, ignoring local zoning laws, mistreating immigrant janitors, abusing young Bangladeshi women and destroying small-town America. Charges against war criminals don’t often extend this far.

The Arkansas based retailer, the largest in the world and the U.S.’s biggest private employer, is also a prime supporter and funder of right-wing political initiatives and candidates. When Wal-Mart first floated its plan to set up shop in Staten Island, the daily Staten Island Advance quoted one supporter as saying they couldn’t understand why the public should be asked to stay away from a business that charged less than did its
competitors. Extend that argument to sweatshops or to slave labor. Would you buy a TV cheap if it was made by overworked children, something that happens in free-trade zones in the Philippines and other parts of the Third World? Or a designer sneaker made at the point of a gun, as happens in China? Why not bring back slavery? Think of the money we’d save.

Shop at Wal-Mart? Thank you, no. I’d rather pound sand.

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6 Comments:

  • 1 InstitutionalMemory
    · Aug 23, 2005 at 5:04 pm

    And they use their profits to fund anti-public education propaganda. The phrase “filthy lucre” comes to mind. These clowns have no shame whatsoever.

  • 2 get_me_a_contract
    · Aug 25, 2005 at 10:41 am

    Sorry, Randi–
    Many of us teachers might have to shop at Walmart since our salaries as NYC teachers are so low. Do you realize that the top salary in many districts on Long Islad now tops $120,000 or more?????? That is 50 percent more than the salaries in NYC. I can hardly afford to fill my tank with gas, so if I have to buy my kids clothes at Walmart, then so be it.

  • 3 dave44
    · Aug 29, 2005 at 5:19 pm

    No job security? Most people don’t have job security, only teacher’s are lucky enough to have security. Once given tenure teachers stick around forever no matter how bad they are. There is no right to belong to a Union. Wal-Mart is not a Socialist company, they aren’t around to make you feel good. They are in business to sell products.

    Unions are destroying this country and it’s great to see a company stand up to them.

  • 4 The Bellman
    · Aug 30, 2005 at 8:24 am

    Labor blogging roundup IV

    First up, three new additions to our labor weblog aggregator.

    NET-workers is a labor centric group blog I hadn’t seen before. The authors describe themselves as “three young people who think workers’ rights are central to a progressive agenda and …

  • 5 WebMachiavelli
    · Sep 26, 2005 at 4:11 pm

    So if Walmart is the bad guy then please explain this to me.

    “Anyhone in Las Vegas area in need of paid employment might drop in at Labor Express, which as openings in unskilled outdoor work at $6 an hour. But the work is grueling: You have to walk up and down toting heavy signs in noon day temperatures of over 100 degrees. Still, if you need the money…

    Who is the unscrupupulous employer taking advantage of the minimum-wage labor like this? Why, it’s… United Food and Commercial Workers labor union, which needs people to man picket lines at a local Wal-Mart.

    This particular Wal-Mart store has a pay scale at starting at 6.75 an hour, and the palce is air-conditioned. So, if you do take that picketing job, you might want to take a break from the work for a few minutes to dodge inside the store and fill out a job application…”

    The editiors of the National Review, writing in the Oct 10 issue.

  • 6 WebMachiavelli
    · Sep 26, 2005 at 4:15 pm

    get_me_a_contract,

    Instead of spending money on that gas tank how about you do what most NYC residents do and take the subway. Right there you could save around a grand a year.